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Nation Topics - Executive Branch

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The people in the know said Snow
Was someone who would have to go.
The dollar's at an all-time low.
On Wall Street, numbers fail to grow.

I, Condoleezza Rice, was leaning over the kitchen sink, hacking up a half-dozen or so rotisserie chickens and slinging the parts into a serving dish in time for the first of the party guests.

"Dr. Rice, nice to see you again. Congratulations on your appointment. We Democrats on the committee are certainly in no position to block your nomination.

Official dishonesty is never worthwhile.

Of the making of many books about Abraham Lincoln there is no end.

Who should
control access to the archives of the 9/11 Commission after it closes
up shop in August? The commission's records will go to the National
Archives.

Most Americans take their system of government for granted, as if Moses himself had delivered the Constitution engraved on marble tablets.

Senate Democrats, who were so divided on the war and tax cuts, are
holding together impressively to stop the Worst of the Worst of
President Bush's judicial nominees.

When Washington gets back to business, there will be squawking over presidential appointments. Before the Christmas recess, GOPers were charging Senate majority leader Tom Daschle and the Democrats with slow-walking on George W. Bush's executive branch and judicial appointments. By year's end, about 70 percent of the top 500 major executive branch positions had been filled--which is not slam-dunk ammunition for the Republicans' anti-Daschle campaign. But the delays of two nominations in particular have irritated Republicans: Otto Reich, nominated to be Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs; and Eugene Scalia, nominated to be Labor Department solicitor. Reich, an anti-Castro lobbyist, ran a State Department office during the Iran/contra affair that, according to a government investigation, "engaged in prohibited covert propaganda." Scalia, son of the Supreme Court Justice who greased Bush's slide into the White House, is a lawyer who represents management in labor disputes and is a harsh critic of ergonomics regulations; his nomination has drawn an outcry from labor. Senate Democrats, blocking the pair for reasons of policy and payback, have turned these two nominations into partisan controversies. But there are other nominees who warrant scrutiny.

§ Gerald Reynolds, Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, Department of Education. Reynolds, senior regulatory counsel at Kansas City Power and Light, is an avowed enemy of affirmative action. He has been affiliated with several conservative interest groups, including the Center for New Black Leadership and the Center for Equal Opportunity, which have waged war on affirmative action and minority set-asides. The position to which he was nominated enforces all discrimination laws covering the nation's public schools and universities. It also oversees Title IX, which prohibits sex discrimination in education programs, including sports. Senator Ted Kennedy has raised "serious concerns" about Reynolds, and civil rights groups have assailed his views on affirmative action and his lack of education policy experience. "While we don't know the nominee's position on all of the issues that are important to Title IX, his very dogged opposition to affirmative action is very problematic for women and girls in education," says Marcia Greenberger, co-president of the National Women's Law Center.

§ Gaddi Vasquez, Director, Peace Corps. Vasquez, a prominent Latino GOP politico in California, resigned as Orange County supervisor in 1995, months after the county, having misled and defrauded buyers of more than $2.1 billion in risky municipal securities, filed the largest municipal bankruptcy in history. After resigning, he became vice president of public affairs for Southern California Edison. In 2000 he donated $100,000 to the Republican Party. Senator Barbara Boxer, a liberal California Democrat, has endorsed Vasquez, and every Latino member of the California Assembly, Democrats and Republicans, signed a letter supporting his nomination. But a group of outraged former Peace Corps volunteers has been lobbying against Vasquez, arguing that he has no experience in international humanitarian affairs or managing a large agency and that this is not a job for a political hack.

§ Rebecca Watson, Assistant Secretary for Land Management, Department of the Interior. As a partner in a Montana law firm, Watson has represented mining companies yearning to dig up more and more federal land. Previously, she worked for the American Forest and Paper Group, and five years ago she represented a Montana business group battling an initiative requiring mining companies to remove carcinogens from their discharges. Industry groups have hailed her nomination; environmentalists have decried it. "She is a corporate lackey, but she will fit in this Administration like a hand in a glove," says Jim Jensen of the Montana Environmental Information Center. According to Friends of the Earth, which has been campaigning against her, she represented Montana businesses (unsuccessfully) in a 1999 court case that challenged language in the state Constitution guaranteeing a clean and healthful environment.

§ Eve Slater, Assistant Secretary for Health, Department of Health and Human Services. Before tagging her for this post, the Bush Administration contemplated nominating Slater, senior vice president for clinical research at Merck, the pharmaceutical giant, to be FDA commissioner. That rankled Senator Kennedy, who protested, "You don't want the fox guarding the chicken coop." The FDA job didn't materialize for Slater, but at HHS she will still have to deal with former industry colleagues.

§ Janet Hale, Assistant Secretary for Management and Budget, Department of Health and Human Services. In the 1980s, as a senior official at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Hale was a second-tier figure in a HUD scandal that involved politically connected developers winning big-money contracts and favors from the department. The Wall Street Journal reported that while Hale held one of HUD's highest-ranking positions, she approved waivers of regulations that permitted the construction of a problematic project sought by the former law partner of HUD Secretary Samuel Pierce. Her predecessor quit rather than OK that deal. Hale initialed it and sent the politically wired contract ahead.

These nominations--most of which are for not-so-high-profile jobs--are unlikely to generate the sort of fire and thunder accompanying the Reich and Scalia tussles. But they add new details to the family portrait of a Bush Administration loaded with corporate-friendly and not-so-compassionate conservative appointees.

New recounts show that the wrong man is in the Oval Office.

Blogs

Gingrich has been criticizing the State Department and calling for its overhaul. 

December 12, 2011

South Korea is turning away from a testing-obsessed educational culture just as the United States is doubling down on test-focused reforms.

September 30, 2011

President Obama is moving forward to reform NCLB unilaterally, but the House GOP has its own plan.

September 23, 2011

Cheney’s autobiography defends his outrageous legacy as George W. Bush’s prince regent. But where’s the chapter on his heroic service in Vietnam?

August 27, 2011

The president and some Republicans like the bipartisan deficit reduction scheme, but Sanders calls it a threat to the safety net and economic fairness.

July 19, 2011

The president has reportedly proposed raising the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 67. That's bad fiscal policy, bad economics and bad politics.

July 12, 2011

Democrats should demand fair taxation, but they cannot support cuts in Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security in exchange for new revenue.

June 29, 2011

Cynicism abounds as House refuses to authorize the Libya mission but also refuses to defund it. This is John Boehner’s managed chaos; it serves Obama and the military-industrial complex but fails the Constitution.

June 24, 2011

Even Pentagon lawyers admit the war was not properly launched and is not being properly maintained. It is time for Congress to step up and say: "Stop!"

June 22, 2011

For the last year, Senate Republicans have used the confirmation process to block nominees, de-staff agencies, and overturn the president's agenda piece by piece.

June 20, 2011